The question of what is social anxiety is a simple one to answer, yet the answer raises a great many new questions. At its core, social anxiety is a type of anxiety related to social interaction. People with problems of social anxiety tend to report a great deal of intense fear and uncertainty in social situations, ranging from buying a snack at the supermarket to a job interview they absolutely can not screw up on. This intense fear and uncertainty is for many sufferers tied to social interaction and all the possible consequences of a particularly bad social interaction, ranging from a simple social faux pas to losing the job that keeps them afloat financially.
But what is social anxiety like to the people suffering from it? Most people know what social anxiety is like from childhood, yet many tend to grow past the initial difficulties of learning how to get along with others. For those who experience this problem into adulthood, many describe it as being a powerful fear of rejection and punishment if they say or do the wrong thing while dealing with other people. These fears get more pronounced the more intense the anxiety is, which often leads to a downward spiral of tension and terror that leads to the exact same problems the sufferer feared in the first place. For most people suffering from social anxiety, these problems emerge only in stressful situations, such as high pressure meetings or trying to make important first impressions.
For other people these problems are more prolific. Some people tend to experience social anxiety more often than others, ranging from the problem being a bit more common to being out right debilitating. Sometimes these anxiety blossom into full fledged delusions of potential consequences; while these are not exactly the pointed delusions of paranoid schizophrenia, they can none the less be quite terrifying to the person having them and more than a little detached from reality as well. When social anxiety of this type becomes a more frequent and at times incapacitating problem, the person suffering from it is often said to have social anxiety disorder. However, other mental illnesses such as severe depression and autism can often induce similar feelings of unease when dealing with social interaction in people who already have serious problems.
Social anxiety disorder is another kettle of fish all together. Described as a persistent and pervasive pattern of social anxiety, this disorder can easily become a severe problem. While most people with the disorder are simply uncomfortable with social interaction in any form, the more severe the disorder the more pronounced the feelings of fear and unease and the more frequently they occur. A mild case may simply be tense and uneasy around other people, while more severe cases may involve delusions and hyperventilating just to cope with the stress the sick mind puts on the person. There are a number of ways to treat this disorder, from willful socializing to psychiatric medication, but getting the right one can be a difficult thing to accomplish.